Cal Poly Concrete Canoe Team Looking to Repeat as National Champions June 23-25 in San Diego

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Members of Cal Poly’s concrete canoe team hope to repeat as national champions at the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 31st annual National Concrete Canoe Competition scheduled June 23-25 in San Diego.

Cal Poly has won the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering” four times, including consecutive championships from 2010 to 2012, and since 2006 it has placed in the top five nationally every year but one.

Each year, some 200 colleges and university teams are challenged to design and produce a canoe made of concrete. The competition is not just about paddling the canoe quickly; teams are judged on oral presentations, a technical paper and the “Final Product” as revealed through the team’s display boards and a buoyancy test of the boat.

Like other top squads, Cal Poly’s team has a strong understanding of concrete and lightweight aggregates, and the ability to apply this knowledge in innovative and unique ways. Over the years, team members have learned how to work well together, have developed a project management system that keeps them focused on the tasks at hand, and have learned from past teams and competitors.

This year’s qualifying teams include two teams from Canada and one from China. And for the first time, there are six wild-card teams, who were invited to participate in the competition and learn from other teams to take ideas back to their universities for next year’s competitions. Five of the  teams have never competed nationally before.

The 25 team canoes weigh between 158 pounds (Université Laval’s LavalLand) and 500 pounds (Colorado School of Mines’ Daedalus, which is also the shortest boat at 16 feet, 10 inches).

Cal Poly’s canoe, “van Gogh,” weighs 178 pounds and is nearly 19-1/2 feet long. It is also an art piece, featuring familiar nods to Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

“We have some good artists on the team,” said project manager Brandon Friedman, a civil engineering senior from Porter Ranch, Calif. “There was never a shortage of what we were going to do for art, because van Gogh had so much inspiring stuff: ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘Starry Night,’ and ‘Irises.’”

Friedman, who was also part of last year’s national championship team, said the team’s successes can be attributed to knowledge transfer — past winners and alumni helping the next year’s squad. Meanwhile, the experience is an excellent example of Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing credo, he said.

“It’s hands-on experience,” Friedman said. “You’re learning about concrete mixtures and properties. We’re constantly talking to industry (representatives) and making those connections. We can interact with them and say, ‘Teach us a little bit about what you do in the process.’ It’s something we don’t get out of reading our textbooks.”

The national championships take place Saturday through Monday on the San Diego State University campus and in the waters of De Anza Cove in Mission Bay.

The National Concrete Canoe Competition is organized by ASCE and San Diego State University with support from the ASCE Foundation, the ASCE San Diego Section, Michael Baker International and T.Y. Lin International.

The National Concrete Canoe Competition is a program of the American Society of Civil Engineers and hosted annually by a university student chapter, thanks in part to funds provided by the ASCE Foundation.

For more information on the National Concrete Canoe Competition, visit

About ASCE
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. Through its strategic initiatives, ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation’s infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and seeks to “Raise the Bar” on engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.

Jacky Loh, a civil and environmental engineering master’s student from Azusa, Calif., sands “van Gogh,” this year’s entry for the National Concrete Canoe Competition in San Diego. This year’s canoe offers a nod to the post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.Civil engineering seniors Hailey Bond, of Costa Mesa, Calif., and Brandon Friedman, of Porter Ranch, Calif., help prepare this year’s concrete canoe, which they are taking to compete in the National Concrete Canoe Competition in San Diego this weekend. Cal Poly has won the national championship four times, including last year. Friedman is leading this year’s team as project manager.

Contact: Pat Pemberton

June 21, 2018

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